Guest Post #4 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. Today please welcome author Susie Kearley who released her pandemic themed novel in January of this year. If you would like to know more about Susie and her writing, her links are at the end of the piece!

“Stay at Home” has been the clear message during lockdown in the UK. For me, it’s been easy. I work from home anyway, writing magazine articles, and when my husband joined me in March 2020, I appreciated the company.

Back in the autumn of 2019, I took two months off article writing to complete my novel – it’s a story about a fungal pandemic, which brings about the end of the world! At the start of 2020, I started looking for an agent, and then Covid struck, which I thought made my book really topical!

I had good feedback but no takers, so I finally decided to publish through Amazon in January 2021, because I felt I was missing an opportunity. There’s been a lot of interest in pandemic stories since Covid struck; Dean Koontz’s novel about a Wuhan Virus published in the 1980s saw sales peak. Peter May’s Lockdown, which was previously rejected because publishers said it was unrealistic… was published to great acclaim in 2020.

As the UK went back into lockdown in January 2021, it felt like the right time to publish.

So my time at home in recent times has been productive, despite considerable challenges. A lot of magazines stopped commissioning, preferring to use up stock, given the unpredictable nature of what might happen next. Article writing work was slow, so I spent more time in the garden, went for daily walks, and worked on my photography. We watched a lot of movies in the evenings under lockdown.

I’m grateful that we have a nice home, with guinea pigs, and a garden. It’s so important to like your home, when you’re having to spend a lot of time there. We’re now looking forward to the opportunities the future brings, as the vaccine is rolled out, and hoping that my pandemic book, ‘Pestilence’ will capture people’s imaginations and become the next best seller! Check it out here http://mybook.to/pestilencebook
www.susiekearley.co.uk

FB: www.facebook.com/susie.kearley.writer
TW: www.twitter.com/susiekearley

Many thanks again to Susie for writing this piece for my Hello Home…feature!

See you next week for another guest post!

Guest Post #1 – Pandemic Pets; How Our Furry Friends Saved Our Sanity

As I mentioned in my post last week, I’m starting a new guest feature here on The Glorious Outsiders, looking at how our pets might have helped us through the pandemic. Last week I wrote about getting a ‘lockdown puppy’, something that we did as a family, by accident, I might add. (We were already on a waiting list for a puppy before the first lockdown happened.) Our new bundle of joy plus our other dog and various pets are always well loved and appreciated, but during both lockdowns, their role in our home became even more obvious and vital. Please welcome author Lily Hayden to the blog – today she will be telling us about the lost rabbit they found during lockdown and goes on to express concern for the many unwanted and abandoned animals out there.

PETS DURING THE PANDEMIC

We humans have been sharing our homes with animals since ancient times. Back in the day, historians speculate that ours was a mutually beneficial relationship, domesticating dogs for hunting and protection, and cats to rid our safe spaces of rodents. Fast forward to present day and our relationships have evolved. We seem to have an obsession with sharing our indoor space with another species for comfort and companionship.

The mental health benefits are widely publicised; pet owners surveyed report lower stress levels, higher happiness and increased activity resulting in better physical health. The downsides are also well known- increased responsibility, financial costs, lack of freedom. Unlike children who will (probably) grow up and move out, these animals will be dependent on you to varying degrees for their entire life with no days off.

During lockdown, we did inadvertently add another fluffy family member to an already full house when my husband found a rabbit in the street. I managed to eventually track down the owner, but they did not want him back. With four other animals and five humans in the house, I figured that my stress levels could stretch to one more.

I must add at this point that I really wanted to write a heart-warming tale of how much I love the animals that live in my house, how unique they all are with different personalities and funny habits. Because hand on my heart, they are a constant source of joy. Even though they are messy, sometimes smell, are needy, and constantly under my feet, they are beautiful, comforting, peaceful, and my home and my heart would be emptier without them. In just under a month, I have developed a lovely bond with the rabbit which is just as well as he sleeps under my bed and jumps on the bed to tell me his food bowl is empty.

Thiago the rabbit is sadly just one of many animals that find themselves being rehomed, and amidst the confusion and heartbreak they must feel, they are fortunate in that that their owners ensured that they went to a safe place. Thousands of not-so-lucky animals are dumped or abandoned every year.

Lockdown has seen a rise in the number of homes acquiring a pet. The retail price for puppies has shot up with unprecedented demand during the pandemic, and I know there are many families that have provided loving, forever homes for their new addition. But equally, I can see that online selling pages are full of animals that aren’t sweet, little babies anymore, and I do worry what will happen to some of these in the future.

A good friend of mine who doesn’t have any pets began fostering cats during lockdown, and the condition of the first cat that came to her was nothing short of heart-breaking and he sadly had to be put to sleep due to his health. She bravely decided to take on another; the tiniest little boy that was no more than skin and bones when he was found dumped in a box with two siblings that were sadly too small to survive.

While the majority would find this, and rightly so, horrendous, it is worrying that trading animals as a commodity and breeding animals for financial gain is something that doesn’t make us all uncomfortable. To us, they might just be a cute companion, but to them we are their whole world, and even more so during lockdown where suddenly sixty percent of the working population in the UK are working from home.

In 2019, the RSPCA took in 10,564 dogs and 29,432 cats. There are hundreds of other animal rescues and charities, dedicated to ensuring that animals remain safe and cared for, taking in thousands more, but they are all struggling with a lack of resources, adoptions and vital fundraising on hold, due to the pandemic. While we are all looking forward to a return to normality, they are justifiably concerned about an influx of unwanted animals in the not-so-distant future.

So, if an animal has brought you love and comfort during this time, when you’re in a position to do so, please support the thousands of animals out there that haven’t been lucky enough to find a home like yours through donating, sponsoring or offering any time that you can spare.

Thank you so much to Lily for joining us on the blog today. If you would like to find out more about her books, here is the link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-Hayden/e/B07CR8KF7D

And if you would like to talk about your pets and how they have helped you get through the pandemic, please get in touch as I would love to hear from you! Blog posts, stories and poems all welcome.

Guest Post #10; Dreaming Of Another World

Welcome to another guest post for my feature Dreaming of Another World. This feature was inspired by a post I wrote here a few months back, where I considered whether another world was possible and could just be glimpsed when lockdown forced us to stay still. I was interested in how other creatives reacted to lockdown and the changes it pushed upon us and opened up my blog to their responses and experiences. I’ve had a great response and here is guest post no.10 from fantasy author Rick Haynes, where he reminisces about leaving the house for the first time after a prolonged spell of isolation.

A TRIP INTO THE UNKNOWN by Rick Haynes

My wife and I thought hard. Due to the impact of Covid-19, we had spent many months cooped up in our nice comfortable prison, but dare we venture outside? But the rays from the sky were sending warmth, giving the prospect of new life to old bones. And after much discussion about the safety aspects, we agreed to depart our sanctuary. For an hour or so, we would take our first trip back to reality, whatever that was.

Now for the checklist. Face masks? Check. Sanitiser? Check. Gloves? Check, but did we need gloves? Medical kit? Check. Blanket? Check. Jackets? In case we felt cold, check.

Taking a drive through the roads of our virus-ridden country was never on any previous menu, but times change for boredom had been our permanent friend for months.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at our destination. The car park at the local garden centre was more than half full, but – in for a penny – as the saying goes. Yet, we hesitated. I could see my wife shaking as we approached the doors of no return.

Inside, the carefully designed twisty routes – to make you see, and hopefully buy, more of the things you don’t want – are like a one-way street. Once in, you cannot reverse and have to travel forward.

With her hand firmly in mine and a nod of her head, we adjusted our masks of fear and entered a world of all things gardening. Much to our surprise, the visitors were few. Wondering about the car numbers in the parking area was over in a flash. Maybe this visit would be less hazardous than we thought?

We placed one foot in front of the other and began the long walk along the meandering trail, eventually emerging into bright sunlight. We inhaled deeply as a world of fragrance, freshness, and clean air instantly hit us. It was good to feel the heat, even better to view the rows and rows of plants and take in the intoxicating scent from the multitude of flowers. With large smiles on our faces, this was our first step into the future but a giant step towards normality.

Our good neighbours – shielding like us – had visited the centre in the last week and advised us to try the coffee shop. They said it was run with military precision, big spaces between seats – inside and out – and you order from the table. Everything was sanitised. Visitors only leave their table to pay and that is to a lass sitting behind a large screen. It worked. We enjoyed our coffee as we felt safe.

And when we left the café behind us, it wasn’t time to go home, as the number of visitors had declined, the walkways almost empty now. My mind wandered back to the decision to shake our fists at the virus, and, without thinking, I was grinning like an idiot.

My wife was looking at the vast array of small shrubs on display. With some being heavily reduced, she thought about buying two small Hebes, one purple and one pinky red. They would do nicely in our new garden, she said. Covered in bees could be the clincher but when the rare Humming Bird Hawk Moth arrived, it was game set and match. The moniker for that stunning moth is long and for that reason, we have always called them, Mobys. Rare in England? Yes, but we have seen many in Greece.

With my wife entranced, I wandered lonely, as if? This garden centre had an aquarium and I sauntered over. It was lovely to see so many highly coloured fish behind glass but I’d rather see them in a large pond. With that in mind, I saw a massive tank to the rear of the aquarium. I climbed the few steps and peered into the murky waters.

At first, I saw little in the gloom. A flash, the tail smacked the water and, like a great magician, the fish vanished. I stared until my eyes were bulging but could see nothing for the tank was murky and at least eight or nine feet deep. The far side was a mystery as I could barely see it.

I turned to go, heard a slap of a tail once more, and felt water hitting my shoulders. I peered into the deep, and like the greatest aqua performers, the Koi Carp made an impressive arrival. With shades of black and hues of gold, orange, and red, the large fish shoaled around the area nearest to me, their eyes seeking something. Eventually, my brain engaged and I realised the fish were awaiting food. Alas, I didn’t have any but the stones at the bottom of the steps looked promising. The first one I lifted was swarming with woodlice. Grabbing a handful, I lowered my hand into the water, released the insects and the fun started. Koi madness took over as the water erupted with fish jumping high, slapping the water with their tails, and lunging into each other. The picture of demons from the deep sucking me under came into my head, but I couldn’t stop now, even though my shirt was damp. I picked up more woodlice and two large spiders and returned to their feeding spot.

The water was unmoving; the fish had vanished. I could see nothing through the murk, not a flash of colour, nor a fin breaking the water.

With my hand full of fishy treats, I slowly opened my palm. And as I began to ease it from the water a huge mouth appeared. It touched my fingers, sucked hard, and gently pulled. Without thinking, instinct took over. I pulled back, and the toothless grin of the largest Koi Carp I had ever seen emerged from the dark waters. 

My panic quickly turned to stupidity and then to rational thought. The remaining insects were learning how to swim for their lives, and the black and red giant monster sucked them up quicker than our carpet cleaner could. Within a minute all was once more serene in the tank of amazement.

Sitting on the lowest step leading up to the massive tank, I sat and pondered. Why did such a huge fish like that hide and then propel its self forward to take a meal from my hand? It couldn’t be that hungry, could it? In my world, fish either bite you or leave you alone, not try and suck you to death. Nevertheless, I checked all my fingers for any bites, sighed with relief, and knew it was time to go. I pulled myself slowly upright and waved to my wife some distance away. Within seconds, I slammed on the brakes for my eyes had homed in on a small and faded notice.

Feed the fish here. Only £1 a bag.

Stupid? I felt like a man with no brain as I walked away.

“I’ve been looking for you, love. Where have you been?”

All I could manage was the grin of a brainless idiot.

A huge thank you to Rick for sharing this post with us! If you would like to find out more about Rick and his books his author bio and links are below.

AUTHOR BIO

My passion is epic fantasy and my first two novels, Evil Never Dies and Heroes Never Fade, have received excellent reviews. As one reviewer posted – ‘Fans of Games of Thrones must read this book!’

My new novel, Outcast, a tale of love, betrayal and giants, has recently been published.

I also write short stories. Several have been published in Scribble, the Portsmouth News and The Chania Post.

I love writing.Rick Haynes
www.rickhaynesauthor.com

Guest Post #9 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of another world is a new feature on my blog where I welcome fellow writers or bloggers to talk about their experiences of Covid 19 and lockdown. I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – that another world was possible and could just be glimpsed once we were forced to stay still. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be publishing a post written by a guest -sharing their thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears during this strange and unsettling time. This week please welcome Suzie Ankers to The Glorious Outsiders. Suzie is a member of my writing group (Chasing Driftwood Writing Group) and is currently working on her debut novel, a thriller. The stresses and strains of lockdown prompted her to write the following poem.

My Daughter Turns Fifteen

It approached like a dark circling tornado,

Full of the threat of violent destruction and menace,

We watch the news in nervous anticipation whilst around us other deny its very existence,

We become doomsday preppers gathering our medications and food to withdraw from society,

Then we wait and life for a while, continues unabated.

Two weeks later and the landscape of the world has changed,

The once busy shopping centres lie empty as a silent killer stalks their aisles,

Our airports and ports keep inviting further unbidden guests to our homes and families,

The doors to my own business remain resolutely shut but my shame escapes,

There is a huge sorrow and fear in the air as my colleagues prepare the NHS for its onslaught,

They are being sent to war without shields and weapons,

Those low paid workers are now the new heroes of our society brought to its knees.

I watched your silent anguish as everyday you swallowed pills which you knew increased your vulnerability,

Whilst your brother and sister railed against the injustice of their false imprisonment you had no such complaints,

The creases in your forehead an indicator of your climbing anxiety,

The news spews forth the dire nature of the battle we have entered into and the fact that we are unprepared,

As we watch our prime minister, an expectant father, now fighting for his life,

I guess you wondered if this is what Corona had in store for you.

Fortunately, the storm abated,

The blue skies of summer heralded the way of greater freedoms, but we didn’t realise we were in the eye of the storm,

Still you hung back and waited until we could at last change your medication,

Fearful of the very thing that makes us human, social interaction.

Your brother left for university,

He partied his way to newfound freedoms,

I saw you watching and shaking your head and yet there was resigned joy in the fact that he had managed to get some semblance of normality,

Beneath that we held a knotting fear in our stomachs,

Would he pay for wanting to be like everyone else?

What risks would he have to navigate in his future career as a Physiotherapist?

Your sister, the most sociable of her family had missed groups,

As soon as she could she reclaimed the reigns of her social life but guided her horse skilfully around the hurdles of the new rules,

Even she was chastened by the virus for wanting normality,

Her boyfriends brother tested positive for Corona after returning from holiday and we missed out being in contact by a hair’s breadth,

I questioned my boundaries and yet I knew this is not the summer she sought,

She had plans of festivals, illicit alcohol, boys, and music. Parties on the beach.

Instead she got family time and more family time,

Yes, we tried teaching her to drive but how could we replace her peers?

Finally, you return to school and I am so proud,

You are the only child in your class to wear a mask,

I see the worry though in the dark circles around your eyes,

I hear the anger as they confirm cases at school and still walk around the corridors without masks,

I sense the rising frustration that people are not taking things as seriously as you believe they should.

I watch you attend your first interview wearing clothes that make you look like a middle-aged woman,

I realise what a warrior you have become and how you have had to wear an old head on young shoulders,

My heart swells with pride as you patiently explain yet again that you wear a mask to keep vulnerable members of society safe.

The interviewer nods yet I wonder if he really understands

I lie in bed at 3am unable to claim sleep worrying about the future,

That’s when my husband holds me and I hear his heart beating deep inside his chest,

It marks the rhythm of time passing and I think how we have made it this far without arguments and together,

He whispers to me that I am a good mama but not even I can protect my children from the air,

My heart does a somersault and my eyes search the ceiling for answers that just are not there.

Thank you so much to Suzie for sharing her words with us. Suzie’s bio is below.

Suzie joined the creative writing group a year ago. For her the act of writing is akin to the joy of reading and transports her into another world. She has three teenage children and works as a Therapist supporting children with Autism, ADHD and Sensory issues. She lives with her husband and children plus their energetic cocker spaniel named Beau. This piece was inspired by her daughters return to school post lockdown and it proved cathartic to write down all her anxieties.